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Washington Nationals Spring Training Previews: What to expect from Max Scherzer in 2020?

Max Scherzer will turn 36 this season and he’s coming off a series of “confusing” injuries.

St Louis Cardinals v Washington Nationals Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Max Scherzer missed significant time last summer (in late July and August) while he worked to recover from scapulothoracic bursitis and then a mild rhomboid strain, and a nerve issue in his neck kept him from starting in Game 5 of the World Series in October.

Scherzer managed to make it back to the mound for Game 7 of the Fall Classic, which the Washington Nationals won, however, and it wasn’t long after the season ended that the 35-year-old starter felt like he’d fully recovered from the injury concerns and a longer than usual campaign.

What was the process of getting back to work like this winter? Did he change anything in terms of his preparation after the injury issues he dealt with in 2019?

“Not too much,” Scherzer said at WinterFest in the nation’s capital last month.

“Just trying to figure out where my body is at,” he explained, “and just how I responded, and now the calendar has turned in January here, I’m feeling actually really good right now, with throwing and running and doing everything I need to do.

“My body is in a pretty good spot considering how late we played last year.”

The Nats’ run to the World Series championship was the seventh postseason appearance of Scherzer’s career, so preparing for a new season after pitching well into October is nothing new for the 12-year-veteran.

“I’ve been in the playoffs before,” Scherzer said.

“I’ve been in the World Series before, and I know how to take care of myself, more so than ever now, and I feel good about going into 2020 and pitching well.”

After dealing with what he said was, “the most confusing injury I’ve ever had in my career,” Scherzer said he was, “doing different lifts now to help try to do some corrective exercises to make sure that doesn’t happen again.”

As of the second week of January, Scherzer said he’d fully moved on from 2019 and was set to get 2020 underway.

“I’ve recovered from our playoff run, and I’m back into training, I feel good, I’m right where I need to be throwing the ball, so I’ll be going to Spring Training full-tilt.”

Scherzer went (11-7) in 2019, with a 2.92 ERA, a 2.45 FIP, 33 walks (1.72 BB/9), 243 Ks (12.69 K/9), and a .222/.266/.371 line against in 27 starts and 172 1⁄3 IP, and he was (3-0) in six games, (five starts), and 30 innings pitched in the postseason, over which he put up a 2.40 ERA, a 3.98 FIP, 15 walks, 37 Ks, and a .193/.290/.330 line against.

“Max is one of the greats of our game,” GM Mike Rizzo said of the pitcher he signed to a 7-year/$210M deal in 2015, “and he’s a huge part of what we’re trying to do in 2020.”

“I speak to him all the time,” Rizzo added. “He’s one of the leadership group that is in touch with me a lot during the offseason, and I noticed around Christmas that he felt good about himself, and I know that he’s down in Florida already doing his thing, so I think that he’ll hit the ground running in Spring Training and I’m sure we’ll have to have a talk with him to back off a little bit.”

Should we expect that more odd or “confusing” injuries will crop up for the right-hander as he pitches into his mid-30s and the final two years of his seven-year deal? Do you think the durable and determined veteran, with a history of attacking the offseason and Spring Training, made necessary adjustments to his workout regimen that will keep him on the mound in 2020?

What do you expect from Scherzer’s sixth season in D.C. after he made the fewest starts since his rookie campaign last summer, and failed to make 30+ appearances for the first time in ten years?